Just as other surgeries, hysterectomy too can bring complications. Hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus, should be considered as the option only after other treatment measures have been tried without positive outcome(s). There are different forms of surgery which can be performed and complications depend significantly upon the type of procedure being undertaken.
Overall, it is a low-risk surgery and most women are unlikely to have serious complications arising out of the surgical procedure. Some of the possible complications have been discussed briefly below.
Major Hysterectomy Complications
Bleeding Or Hemorrhage
Hysterectomy being an operative procedure, there is likelihood of heavy bleeding (or hemorrhage) after the surgery. Hemorrhage is a serious postoperative complication which has been found in 1% – 3% of people. Women having a peripartum hysterectomy are likely to experience this complication more.
Women undergoing hysterectomy for gynecologic cancer or elective hysterectomy are also likely to experience complications (hemorrhage). A hemorrhage occurring above the vaginal cuff will require further examination for appropriate treatment. In case of a hemorrhage, blood transfusion can become essential.
An operation, as hysterectomy, can always bring an infection. Women are likely to suffer from urinary tract infection (uti), vaginal and chest infection. Although these are unlikely to be serious, treatment should be administered promptly. About 4-10% of people undergoing vaginal hysterectomy develop an infection after surgery. This figure can go up to about 25% for those having abdominal hysterectomy.
It is suggestive that infection is a complication of hysterectomy despite all careful precautions taken. Therefore, it is recommended to use preoperative and postoperative tools (such as prophylactic treatment with antibiotics) to reduce chances of developing infections.
Women having their ovaries removed are likely to experience menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, interrupted sleep, sweating and vaginal dryness. Once the production of eggs (ovulation) gets terminated, menopause is triggered. Women below 40 are likely to experience early onset of menopause.
This can also increase the chances of developing osteoporosis owing to decreased level of the hormone (estrogen). Complementing with medications may prevent osteoporosis. Early menopause (onset) may be likely even with retained ovaries. Studies have found out that menopause may occur as early as 4-5.5 years when hysterectomy is being done.
Bladder Or Bowel Problem
Hysterectomy, in rare cases, can cause damage to the abdominal organs. Incontinence (frequent need to urinate) may happen after undergoing hysterectomy. Problem may also occur in bowel movement owing to a damage done during the hysterectomy. A temporary catheter (to drain urine) or a colostomy (to collect bowel movements) can be used.
Women undergoing a vaginal hysterectomy can experience problems at the (top of) vagina where cervix got removed. Complications may occur as slow healing of wound and prolapse in later years. There can also be problems with anesthesia and painful intercourse.
Additionally, vaginal hysterectomy may cause damage to the internal organs through the removal of the uterus via vagina. Reduced visibility, large size of the uterus or any unexpected complication in the abdomen can produce undesirable outcomes and complications. It may happen that a vaginal hysterectomy surgery ends up being an emergency abdominal hysterectomy owing to unforeseen elements.
Hysterectomy may also cause thrombosis. This is a possible complication where a blood clot forms in a vein and hampers circulation of blood and flow of oxygen around the body. Thrombosis can be more evident post surgery and associated with periods of immobility. Blood thinning drugs can help reduce the likelihood of thrombosis. Starting movement early (as soon as possible) after the operation can also be helpful.